November 30, 2010

An Ameracauna baker's dozen

Two week old chicks. The light one has been
named Butterscotch by my girlfriend.
Thanksgiving week marked the arrival of a baker's dozen of Ameracauna chicks.  Imported (yes, we're fancy) from Richmond, VA, the youngest chicks are enjoying a heat lamp in the garage while the older chicks are camped out in a stall in the barn.

For now, the Ameracaunas will be kept separate from the older RIRs I have in the chicken coop.  Those chickens ... they have me confounded.

Some of them came to me at an unknown age, but some are chicks I raised.  The problem is that none of them are laying, not even the youngest hens.  A few simply keeled over and died and I don't know why.

So I have these hens and roosters I believe to be Rhode Island Reds or a mix of RIR.  The older hens aren't laying at all anymore.  The younger chicks never started laying. I have no idea what the problem is. Now winter is approaching and, unless I figure out a good lighting plan for the coop, I doubt there will be any eggs at all this winter. I'm faced with feeding non-producing chickens and that's an expensive prospect.  A woman from the local 4H is interested in buying a few of the older hens, even if they have stopped laying. I'd like to give the youngest hens a chance to lay but is it worth feeding them all winter and hoping for a couple eggs?

The "older" chicks' first night. Kept them in the garage
for the first night so they could acclimate
to the stall during daylight
The Ameracaunas will be ready to start laying in late February or early March.  I'll need to keep them separate from the RIR roosters for breeding purposes.  My girlfriend wants to incubate some eggs and sell the chicks which will be a neat project.  So where do I keep the Ameracaunas?

The coop is divided into two sections and the front section is used for storage.  I suppose we could clean that part out and install some laying boxes.  I'd have to cut out an animal door for the hens to get in and out of the coop -- and make sure it can be secured at night to keep the predators out.  Letting the chickens free range during the day would be ideal but the last time we tried that, one of the chickens ended up in the subdivision that borders my property.

For now, the chicks are eating, scratching and having a good time exploring the barn stall. But between now and February, I have some decisions to make on what to do with all these chickens. My girlfriend keeps telling me to put the older chickens in the freezer for soup.  We'll have to see which ones end up in the freezer and which ones are suddenly motivated to start laying again!

Chicken Count:
"Baby" chicks - 3 hens (we think)
Older chicks - 9 hens, 1 rooster (we're pretty sure about the sex of this batch of chickens)
RIR  mixed breeds - 12 hens, 3 roosters


  1. Just dropping in from Blotanical! How old are your RIR pullets? I'd be tempted to wait until they have the benefit of increasing daylight or a extended lighting program before giving up on them. As you've lost some to unknown causes, check to see if your ag extension offers a necropsy service. Many states have programs that offer this service for free to individuals and small farms, and if you should lose another hen it might be worth having it worked up. It might give you some clues. I might not expect your Ameracaunas to lay much before early April, but they're awfully adorable! Good luck!

  2. I'm so sorry you are having chicken troubles! I'm planning to get araucanas in the spring and I hope this doesn't happen. I think Curbstone Valley's advice sounds good -- winter seems like the worst time to decide.